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Historic arch to return to Shanghai

updated: 2009-06-25

A 100-year-old wooden archway made in Shanghai will return to Shanghai later this month after 96 years overseas, Xuhui District Culture Bureau said yesterday.

Tushanwan Archway, exhibited in three World Expos, will be on display during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, officials said.

The archway is being shipped back from Sweden in thousands of pieces, officials said. Experts will then restore the archway, which measures 5.8 meters high and 5.2m wide.

It was created in Shanghai at the Tushanwan Orphanage, a home for Chinese orphans set up by French missionaries in the 19th century where students learned about Western art and techniques. The arch was carved by dozens of orphans in 1912 at the school, which once stood just south of today's Xujiahui area. The school has been called China's "cradle of Western painting."

The four pillars of the archway are carved with coiled dragons with pearls in their mouths and are inscribed with Taoist legends. Forty-two lions are carved at their foundations. Each side of the archway is inscribed with Chinese characters. The top of archway is carved with two more coiled dragons encircling a pearl surrounded by dolphins.

The archway was transported to San Francisco in the United States for the 1913 World Expo and displayed at China's pavilion, said Chen Chengquan, director of the culture bureau.

The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago purchased the archway after the Expo and displayed it in its main hall for over a decade. It also featured at the 1933 World Expo in Chicago, Chen said. Six years later, the archway was displayed at the New York World Expo in 1939. After the New York Expo, the archway was acquired by Indiana University. In the 1980s, an American bought the archway and sold parts of it, officials said.

Damaged pieces were rescued by a European architect surnamed Woeler in 1985, who transported them to Sweden in 1986. Woeler set up a fund to restore and research the archway with the help of a Chinese scholar.

"The archway, along with other Tushanwan artifacts, combines Chinese and Western culture," said Tong Bingxue, a collector who has about 200 pieces from past World Expos.

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